Jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, once called President Eisenhower “two faced” and “gutless” for his inaction on issues of segregation at an Arkansas school.
Armstrong, affectionately referred to as Satchmo or Pops, picked his battles, but when he decided to engage an opponent, he seldom held back. Unfortunately for Satchmo — short for ‘satchel mouth’ – his silence on key issues during the 50’s and 60’s earned him the title of “Uncle Tom,” which stuck with him years after his death in the 1971. But social commentators of Armstrong’s era, who were eager to label him an Uncle Tom, never got a chance to read Armstrong’s letters.
Only decades after his death did the masses get a chance to read the letters crafted by the grandson of slaves from the Deep South. In fact, most of Armstrong’s thoughts and perspectives were hidden away in a long series of uncollected letters and manuscripts. But his letters were more than a method to document his opinions on serious topics, they were a tool to connect with fans. Armstrong didn’t live in a time where a single tweet could connect you with your favourite musician; the options for connecting with a celebrity were limited.
A typewriter accompanied the trumpeter when he toured and he took the time to personally respond to fan mail. But it wasn’t that Armstrong wrote letters to fans himself which is interesting, it is that he crafted the letters the way two old friends would. They were organic and written the way he spoke.
In a lengthy letter written in 1967 to a fan stationed in Vietnam, Armstrong speaks about his wife’s health, his favourite laxative and concludes with a song.
“My wife Lucille has joined me here. The rest will do her lots of good. She was operated on for a tumor, about the middle of July. She’s improving very rapidly.” – Louis Armstrong
Connecting on a human level with your target audience is invaluable. Whether it’s addressing praises or concern, or jumping spontaneously into a conversation, genuine interactions can win over your fans and customers. A study found that 70% of Americans are willing to pay 13% more for a product if they feel the company will provide superior customer service.
Whether you’re an emerging musician who spends time interacting with fans on your Facebook page, or a fledgling company addressing technical issues through your website, understanding the impact of a human interaction can quickly set you apart from your comp.
Although Armstrong’s letters might not have won him over many fans, the virtual world can take the fan mail experience to another level.
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